The grandma question.

“Sweetie, what is it that you do really?”

That’s my grandmother asking. She sits in a 25-year old wonky sofa and pets her amorphous Shitzu. I look at the ceiling for a couple of seconds and do a quick literature review for the introduction, formulate the hypothesis, enumerate the methodology  and even include some preliminary data. I bring my eyes down and formulate an answer. Grandma awaits. The Shitzu is chewing the corner of the sofa.

“Well grandma, I am trying to make the immune system kill cancer”

“In people?” – she asks in equal parts of horror and curiosity.

“No, not in people. But scientists have already tried it in people and it looked promising”

Grandma nods. She’s read about this in the news. “It’s amazing how medicine is advancing”. I nod as well. The Shitzu makes a wimpy noise and I finally figure out where it’s head is.

The grandma questions. It’s something all of us who have committed to scientific research will encounter multiple times. How to explain the complexities of science and the intricacies of your own research to non-scientists with their varying degrees of education. How to avoid technical jargon and long contorted answers. How to make it interesting. How to explain the big picture instead of a list of things your supervisor told you to do.

Communicating science is a crucial part of what we do as researchers and something that I enjoy very much. My name is Pedro Veliça and I’m a post-doc at the department of Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB) in Karolinska Institute. I am from Portugal, lived in the UK for nearly 9 years where I did my PhD at the University of Birmingham and a post-doc at University College London (UCL) and have been in Sweden for just over a year.

I am also an avid follower of science cartoonists such as  PhD Comics, the Upturned Microscope and xkcd comics. Cartoons are rapidly becoming a popular medium to propagate scientific knowledge to a wider audience often resorting to humour and puns to convey a message that would otherwise be too complex to deliver in text.

I am myself an aspiring science cartoonist and run a page called Pedromics on Facebook where I illustrate aspects of my scientific interests (immunology and cancer mostly) and life in academia in all its glory and decadence.

So there it is: my introductory post for the PhD Students and Researchers blog at KI!

Below a somewhat idealised self-portrait 🙂


One thought on “The grandma question.

  1. When my husband or friends ask what my nephew does, he works in sport medicine research is all I can say. I don’t even quite know myself what he does though I have seen some of his work and I have some science background. I can say that he works on how drugs effect different muscle on a molecular level but they just look at me… and then I wonder if I have it right anyway. Yes, unless you are well versed, deeply imbedded, it doesn’t really make sense. I should just say he cleans test tubes.

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